Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

A month or two ago, I completed an application at the local Whole Foods to be a Whole Foods Ambassador. I found out last week that I was chosen. The Ambassador Club is basically about 10 people who are selected to provide the managers with feedback regarding products, customer services, improvements/renovations, and any other recommendations.

When I arrived to Whole Foods Plantation, I was directed to a small store next door that is the Whole Foods Bakehouse. I had to walk up a flight of stairs to a conference room. Each participant received a reusable shopping bag, some snacks, and a $25 gift card. Cookies and fruit were on the table.

We began by doing introductions. Each person had a reason for being there... one woman had a daughter with autism, so she followed a gluten-free, casein-free diet. One woman's husband was on a sugar-free diet. One woman was vegan. There were two men who frequently shopped at Whole Foods. Here's the surprising part -- when I looked around at the 9 participants, myself included, 6 were obese (some morbidly obese). They was also minimal ethnic diversity. Now, obviously, our weight and our ethnicity were not asked about on our applications... but it definitely did not seem to be an accurate cross-section of Whole Foods customers.

Obesity really is a serious issue in this country. I think I may have written about it before, but my generation is supposed to be the first generation with a shorter life span than our parents' generation...and that is due to obesity. One woman stated that it is very important that her children eat healthy food, to the extent that she does not allow her kids to eat food with any dyes because of the hazards, but she herself does not eat that way. The "do as I say, not as I do" attitude about food just doesn't work for me. Clearly, if your child has food restrictions based on allergies or textural issues, then your child may need to eat something different than you. But how do you expect your children to be healthy eaters if you are not modeling that behavior yourself. I don't always eat healthy -- but I make a genuine effort to eat well. I eat a somewhat diverse diet. I like foods from all different cultures, I prepare hot meals, cold meals, simple dishes, complex. I introduce Lydia to everything that I prepare (sometimes I make hers less spicy, but it's the same basic flavors). So when I saw that these individuals represent a small group in terms of personal choices and ethnicity, their opinions became slightly less valuable to me.

So what did we talk about? I offered up several ideas:
1. When I go to the milk section at Whole Foods, I get very overwhelmed. I know that dr's tend to recommend almond milk nowadays and different yogurt drinks, but then there is also pasteurized milk, ultra-pasteurized milk, milk from cows that are grass fed, goat's milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc. I suggested some information outlining the different types of milk, similar to what they do in the cheese section.

2. Speaking about the cheese section, I suggested they check all their cheeses daily, as I have found cheese that is moldy and handed it over to the person working in that section. I also suggested that they redesign the cheese section as it is somewhat scattered/disorganized.

3. I thought the signage was good, especially as it relates to upcoming events.

4. I suggested they start carrying at least one or two brands of cloth diapers. They are pretty limited in their diaper options. I am not impressed by Seventh Generation and Earth's Best.

5. Often times I want to purchase prepared foods. There is always an ingredient list posted by the prepared foods, and at the bottom of the list, it says "This item contains the following" and it lists potential allergens (e.g. soy, nuts, wheat), but it does not state whether or not it contains meat. Products such as stocks, bases, and broths are in a lot of rice dishes, soups, etc. so it would be easier if it was listed at the bottom so I don't have to read 20+ ingredients to figure that out.

6. Sometimes I want to purchase a small quantity of their baked goods, but often you have to purchase a large package (one dozen brownies, 20 cookies). I suggested they sell smaller packages, 2 brownies, 4 cookies.

Other people offered all different types of suggestions. Some were a bit out there for me, but some were valuable. It's nice to know that even chain grocery stores value their customers' opinions. I think this is a great program, and I hope they really consider our suggestions to make some improvements. It's just too bad that I feel like the sample of participants is somewhat limited. The next meeting is December 8th. I look forward to contributing more ideas and discussing issues that directly impact the variety and quality of food available to my family.


Elita said...

Interesting. I wonder if my Whole Foods had a program like this. Anyway, I've never heard of a doctor recommending almond milk. They typically recommend cow's milk for toddlers and say to only use soy, rice or almond if the child is "lactose intolerant." I've bought the milk from the grass fed cows that they sell there and it is delicious, but I've cut out 95% of the dairy in my diet now and have stopped drinking milk. Would like to cut it out completely at some point but I love cheese and I can't drink my coffee without real cream.

Jennifer said...

This is interesting because many of your suggestions are in action at my Whole Foods, so I imagine you will see changes. They carry cloth diapers (not a huge selection), as well as g-diapers (as a side note - we use EB or 7th Gen diapers at night and love them!). You can also purchase individual brownies, cookies, bagels, muffins, dinner rolls, etc. from a self-service glass case. I'm surprised that you frequently find moldy cheese as I find that sort of thing at other grocery stores all the time (all. the. time. doesn't anyone pay attention?) but never at Whole Foods.

Perhaps the stores vary a lot. We have a great staff at ours. They are always helpful and friendly. I usually have more than one person ask if I need help with bags when I am leaving if I have Jack, and always at least 1 if I don't. They bend over backwards to help me find something, even if they are in the middle of something else or it isn't their department, etc. I love to shop there because I know they really stand by their products. I brought back a pack of yobaby yogurt once because I got home and discovered it was a few days before the sell by date. They didn't even ask for a reciept.

Jennifer said...

Oh I meant to say that I have never heard of a doctor reccomending almond milk (I assume for lydia?) either and I am wondering why it is reccomended? Jack will drink almond milk sometimes, but he refuses to drink whole milk. He will tollerate 2% on cereal, etc. and occassionally will drink it so I just give him 2-3 servings of cheese and yogurt or make smoothies every day. Our doctor said it isn't that they need milk, but that they need what is in the milk, so any dairy is fine (esp. if it is made with whole milk)

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